Born in the U.S.A.: Top 50 Stars of the 50 States

Tennessee: As with Springsteen in New Jersey, it's hard to imagine anyone other than Dolly Parton representing Tennessee, especially since her "Dollywood" theme park welcomes approximately 2.5 million visitors annually. The Nashville queen, born in Sevierville, boasts the most No. 1s (25) of any female artist in the 68-year history of Country Songs.

Fran Strine

On July 17, Dolly Parton will embark on a 39-date tour of the United States, Europe and Australia in support of her second studio album for her own Dolly Records, "Better Day," which arrived June 28. Originally from Sevierville, Tenn., Parton, 65, has charted 25 No. 1 singles and 41 top 10 country albums during a career that spans five decades. "Better Day Now," her 41st studio set, is the first album from the legendary singer/songwriter since she ventured onto Broadway with "9 to 5: The Musical" in 2009. Three songs from the musical-"I Just Might," "Let Love Grow" and "Shine Like the Sun"-appear on the new album.

1. You've said that the songs on the album are thematically linked, in that they are all inspirational. How did that concept come about?

Every project calls for something different, and on this [one] I wanted a lot of colors. I wanted to do something uplifting so even in the losing songs, I'm saying you're going to pick up the pieces. We actually did demo a lot of songs for this . . . and it seemed that with everything being so doomsday-terrorists and bad weather and unemployment-we need a little sunshine. I know I can sing a good sad song, but people hate to hear me sing them. I wanted to do something people would want to hear.


2. After more than a decade of always throwing in a cover song, your new album is all originals, something you haven't done since "Hungry Again" in 1998. Was that a deliberate choice?

It's just how it worked out. "Country Is As Country Does" was a song I wrote with Mac Davis a few years ago and it just seemed to fit. Like the few things from "9 to 5." I enjoy singing them and they fit, too.

3. You're rehearsing for your tour. How many new songs are you adding to your set?

I got about five: "Together You & I," "Better Day," "Shine Like the Sun," "The Sacrifice"-which is my life story-and "In the Meantime."

4. Now that you have done two studio albums for Dolly Records -- in addition to a live album and the "9 to 5" cast album -- what effect is having your own record company having on your career?

It just made sense when we started. No real big label was interested in me as a recording artist and I didn't think of myself as a has-been. I couldn't get a decent contract with a label that would present me as an artist and not as a personality. I'll always be writing songs so this has turned out real good for me. I probably have eight people working for [the label], handling all the Twitter and Facebook things and promotions.

5. The producer of "9 to 5," Bob Greenblatt, is now running NBC. Any chance of the two of you working together in TV?

I'm very proud of what he's done so far, things like "The Voice," but I haven't pushed anything on him yet. When we did "9 to 5," I said, "If I come out [to Los Angeles], you owe me," so we have gone back and forth paying each other back. We enjoyed working together, so if I had something for TV, I'd call him.

6. You have always been pegged as a sharp businesswoman. Of everything you are involved in, which do you see having the greatest future?

I enjoy doing all of it. I just did a movie with Queen Latifah, "Joyful Noise," that comes out Jan. 12. So if that movie does good, maybe I'll do more. I still love Dollywood and Imagination Library, my literacy project, and I could never give up music. It was a song that got me out of [the Smoky Mountains], and it's a song that has gotten me everywhere.